Should you do the Rapha Festive 500?

The Rapha Festive 500, covering 500km in the eight days from 24th-31st December, is an annual event and a rite of passage for many riders. With this in mind, if you’re following the Hotchillee Winter Warmer Training Plan you’ve got a “free week” to accommodate it but i’m going to float the slightly controversial idea that doing it maybe isn’t such a great idea. 

The weather

With the Festive 500 now accepting virtual kilometres this is less of an issue than it used to be but, with the prospect of averaging 60km+ a day on an indoor trainer for eight days being frankly horrendous, you’re probably going to be wanting to head outdoors for most of those kilometres. With inevitable family commitments, you might not be able to pick and choose when you ride and that can mean being “forced out” in some pretty foul conditions. 

A few years ago I might have bought into the whole Rule #9 “If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.” nonsense but, whether it’s wisdom with passing years or just getting a bit soft, I’m done with purposely inflicting cycling created climatic misery on myself. 

Safety concerns aside – which aren’t insignificant on winter roads in poor conditions, no Rapha Roundel is going to motivate me to ride these days if I know the forecast is bad.

Inappropriate increase in volume

For most of us a 500km week and a day would represent a significant step-up in volume. With a 30 kph average speed, it comes in just shy of 17 hours and, if you throw in some climbs etc and that speed drops to 25 kph, you’re looking at 20 hours – that’s a lot of time on a bike. In terms of TSS, you’re probably looking at 800-1000 which, in anyone’s books, is a big chunk of riding.

Now you might say, surely that’s a good thing, it’ll be a boost for my winter training. The main problem is though that such a big leap in volume isn’t going to necessarily stress your body in a good way. 

As you’ll probably be forced to ride pretty steady to log those kilometres, the useful training stimulus from them won’t be that high. You’ll also accumulate huge amounts of fatigue that’ll significantly effect the quality of training in subsequent weeks. Finally, such a high volume load, especially in poor conditions, is not going to have a great impact on your immune system – not ideal at the moment. 

Quality versus quantity

I know I bang on about this like a scratched record but, for the vast majority of riders, the main priorities over the winter should be consistency, maintenance of some intensity, off the bike conditioning and staying healthy – sticking in a 500 km week mid-winter really isn’t conducive to any of those. 

My advice would be to maybe get out for one or two decent spins if the weather allows but also to put in some higher intensity sessions on the turbo – repeating Week 7 of the plan wouldn’t be a bad call. 

Enjoy the break

There’s nothing wrong with having a week off the bike and arguably, at this time of year, especially if you have been consistent with your training so far, it can be just the physiological and psychological reset you need. 

You won’t lose fitness in a week and, with FTP tests looming in the New Year, some genuine R&R could be really beneficial. 

Consider trying some short and sharp sessions, out of the Hotchillee workouts, Serrano, 5 Minutes of Fun, Team Pursuit and, for a real quick fix, Tabata are all good choices. 

If you do decide to do it….

Be safe, be sensible, prioritise your recovery post ride and post how you get on on here.